Las Vegas Sun

November 24, 2017

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Political Memo:

Mayoral candidate Carolyn Goodman avoiding debates

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Chris Giunchigliani and Carolyn Goodman shake hands while Katherine Duncan and Larry Brown leave the dais after a Las Vegas mayoral debate sponsored by various neighborhood associations Tuesday, February 22, 2011.

Mayoral debate

KSNV coverage of Las Vegas mayoral debate, April 16, 2011.

In every election, at every level, there is debate over how much the candidates should engage in debates. The conventional wisdom holds that the candidate leading in the polls should avoid debates because of the risk of embarrassing herself. The candidate in the lead has more to lose than to gain in a debate.

We’re seeing this tactic play out in the Las Vegas mayor’s race. Community groups are calling out mayoral candidate Carolyn Goodman for what they say is an unwillingness to debate.

Representatives from the National Organization for Women, Si Se Puede Latino Democratic Caucus, Veterans in Politics and other groups say Goodman is rejecting their offers for debates between her and her opponent, Chris Giunchigliani.

Si Se Puede Chairwoman Vicenta Montoya said she approached Goodman at a NAACP debate last month and invited her to the group’s event. Soon after, the campaign “indicated they are all finished doing debates and are not interested in doing anymore,” Montoya said.

Giunchigliani had agreed to attend — and clearly felt at home with the organization. It had hosted a house party for Giunchigliani in March.

Goodman’s campaign manager, Bradley Mayer, said Goodman never committed to Si Se Puede. He said Goodman has participated in numerous debates and forums, plans to take part in two more televised debates this month and would rather focus her attention on one-on-one meetings with voters.

Debates “don’t give voters a chance to really see who I am,” Goodman wrote via Twitter. “I want to get out with the people.”

Since Goodman entered the mayoral race in February, critics have accused her of shying away from debates that force her to take policy positions and present substantive ideas. Giunchigliani maintains that Goodman doesn’t want to debate because she has no real understanding of issues.

“It really seems as if she’s playing the typical game we see when people are high in the polls,” Montoya said. “They avoid debates.”

Steve Sanson, president of Veterans in Politics, said his group organized an event specifically to meet Goodman’s preferences, and she still declined to participate.

Sanson said he was told Goodman would not take part in a debate but would speak to the group during an endorsement interview.

Veterans in Politics typically does not endorse candidates or hold endorsement interviews for the general election but agreed to Goodman’s terms. Giunchigliani agreed to either format.

Sanson set up the interview and planned to have both women sit on a stage and answer questions from members. It was to be videotaped and posted online “so that we could get a mass audience, and people could make their own observations if they don’t like our endorsement,” Sanson said.

Sanson said Goodman bowed out after complaining about the format. Sanson said her campaign objected to having both candidates appear at the same time and to having the interviews broadcast.

Mayer said Goodman has agreed to speak with the veterans; she planned to do a radio interview with the group Saturday. He also noted that she took part in endorsement interviews with the group during the primary.

As recently as Friday, Goodman reportedly backed out of several more planned appearances and debates. Giunchigliani’s campaign said Goodman canceled a debate planned for KXNT 840-AM and informed a class of seventh-graders at 100 Academy of Excellence, a charter school in West Las Vegas, that she would no longer speak to the class.

Mayer said Goodman has made her views clear during past debates and will participate in two more.

Goodman agreed to speak at a Lambda Business Association luncheon this week, but she and Giunchigliani will appear separately. Lambda is Las Vegas’ LGBT Chamber of Commerce.

The Sun has asked Goodman and Giunchigliani to participate in a videotaped round-table conversation, moderated by a reporter. Giunchigliani accepted three weeks ago; Goodman so far has not.

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